A pro-logging northern New Mexico county has passed a far-reaching law that mandates watershed-friendly logging practices on private land.
"There's nothing else like this
(in the U.S.)," said attorney David Gomez of the Western
Environmental Law Center in Taos, N.M., who helped draft the
The three-man Rio Arriba County
Commission passed the ordinance unanimously this summer.
Commissioner Moises Morales, himself a former logger, said it was
important to protect water "before it gets too late." He said he
saw water supplies diminish significantly in his native Canjilon
after heavy logging there several decades
The law makes loggers get a permit and
notify neighbors before cutting 25 acres or more. New Mexico State
Forestry's "best practices' for logging are required rather than
recommended. The law also gives the county the authority to prevent
environmental damage from careless logging rather than sue for
The fight for logging
oversight began last year, when residents learned of a plan to log
up to 60,000 acres on a local watershed. Ranchers argued that the
operation threatened not only the health of local water but also
their traditional rural Hispanic ways of
Opponents argued at eight hearings that the
county was stepping on their private property
"We have nothing against logging," said
Morales, "but we also have to protect Mother Nature."